Your Top Three is a series here at Movies.com where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.
Not every movie that takes place between 1939 and 1945 is a war movie. But a large majority of them, regardless of where in the world they hail from or where in the world they’re set, are basically World War II movies. It was a global conflict, and most corners of the Earth were affected by what was going on.
The Monuments Men, which opens this Friday, is a movie set not only during WWII but directly in the midst of it. But it’s not quite of the same genre as Saving Private Ryan, even though both are pretty narrowed into a special mission rather than a certain campaign or battle. Ryan is most definitely a war movie. Monuments is not.
Today’s topic allows for a lot of titles, and that definitely allows for some creative or interesting choices. Here are some great movies that are set during WWII but aren’t necessarily war movies: Casablanca, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Nowhere in Africa, Lifeboat, Saboteur, Closely Watched Trains, The Mirror and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Some others you might not think of as being set during that period include A League of Their Own, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Pan’s Labyrinth. I’d also include the underrated time travel movie The Final Countdown.
Here are my top three movies set during WWII:
1. Inglourious Basterds
Like The Monuments Men, this is just barely a war movie, or not, though Quentin Tarantino’s historical fantasy does involve the reimagined end of WWII in its special mission. But I never said these can’t be war movies, just that they don’t have to be.
2. Grave of the Fireflies
The saddest animated movie — no, the saddest movie of any kind — ever, Isao Takahata’s 1988 feature depicts the March 1945 firebombing of Kobe, Japan, through the experiences of two orphaned children. Just writing about it has my eyes watering.
3. Radio Days
There are plenty of coming-of-age movies set during WWII, and not all of them are as devastating as the previous pick or any others located in a part of the world where fighting is taking place. Woody Allen gets nostalgia for his childhood during the late ’30s, just as the War was breaking out in Europe. Even though it’s set in the U.S. before we were involved, this episodic comedy shows that the European conflict was still a big concern for alot of Americans before Pearl Harbor.
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